Department of Elections Begins Opening and Processing Vote-by-Mail Ballots on October 25

Department of Elections
City and County of San Francisco
John Arntz, Director

For Immediate Release
SAN FRANCISCO, Friday, October 21, 2016 –The Department of Elections will begin opening and processing accepted vote-by-mail ballots on Tuesday, October 25.

As vote-by-mail ballots are returned, staff members process them by scanning the envelopes through a mail sorter that records receipt of each ballot, captures the voter’s signature on the envelope for Department personnel review, and sorts the envelopes by voting precinct.

State election law, authorizes the Department to begin opening accepted envelopes and extracting ballot cards ten business days before an election. Starting on October 25, the envelopes of the accepted ballots will be opened by a high speed envelope opener and staff members will remove the ballot cards from the envelopes. Throughout this process, the side of the envelope with the voter’s identifying information is kept face down, to protect the voter’s privacy. The extracted ballot cards are then flattened and prepared for counting.

These processes are open to the public and will be broadcast on SF Elections Live. The Department will stream activities inside City Hall, Room 59, to show sorting and opening of the envelopes, and activities in the hallway outside Room 59, to show ballot removal from the envelopes.

Starting on October 27, the ballot cards that have been extracted from the envelopes will be counted by optical scan machines in the Department’s computer room. The machines do not tabulate the results at this time; by law, results can be tabulated and released only after the polls close at 8 p.m. on Election Night. Instead, the machines read the marks on the ballots indicating a voter’s choices for candidates and ballot measures, and store this information for tabulation and inclusion in the official tally on Election Day. The  activities in the computer room will also be broadcast on SF Elections Live and can be observed through a viewing window.

For more information, call the Department of Elections at (415) 554-4375, write to, or visit the Department’s office in City Hall, Room 48.  


Department of Elections
City and County of San Francisco
1 Dr. Carlton B. Goodlett Place
City Hall, Room 48
San Francisco, CA 94102
(415) 554-4375

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